Saturday, December 7, 2013

Eastside Vice

Every time I go to the dentist, he tells me to stop eating so much candy, then either informs me that A) I need another gold crown, or, B) I have a few spots he's going to, "keep an eye on."  Dylan, too, seems to have inherited my knack for collecting cavities and she's becoming well accustomed to hearing the same thing from him. Aside from poor dental hygiene, our kids have a couple of bad habits that, for now, are borderline, but, in the immortal words of Dr. Willis, we'll definitely be keeping an eye on them so they don't blow up into full fledged vices.

Grady's habit is seemingly innocent.  He still sucks his left pointer finger.  It's not too big of a deal, but as a four-year old, he should be outgrowing it.  It's a habit that he clings to, and whenever he's bored (in the car), or tired, he immediately sticks his finger in his mouth.  Apparently, he gnaws on his finger because he's developed a callous that looks like it came off a Pacific Crest Trail hiker's foot.  We'd be okay with his habit if he didn't double it up with a hand-down-the-pants combo.  The degree of difficulty is high to manage both things at once, but he's become a master.  If it were merely the Al Bundy-style, or "The Judd," as Regina calls it, and he stuck his right hand down the front of his pants, we'd chalk it up to weird genetics and let it go.  Instead, his free hand shoots down the back of his pants and we're constantly worried he's going to get some crazy butt-sweat rash on his little hand.  Ok, maybe "we're" not worried, that one may just be on me.

If A&E decides to spin off from their unsettling show Hoarders with a dark side of children-hoarders series, their first stop will be in Dylan's room.  The girl collects everything.  On last count, she had five jewelry boxes, none contained jewelry, and all were overflowing with ... I'd say junk, but she gets mad when I call it that.  Ditto for beneath her bed, and behind her bed, and her backpack, and her pockets.  If it's a vessel, or just an area that will store stuff, she'll fill it.

Last week, Regina was washing one of Dylan's jackets.  It felt unnaturally heavy and so she checked the pockets.  This is certain to be on Episode I, because this is what we found: a paper clip, 3 pieces of scrap paper, 3 rocks, a small stuffed animal, a stick, one used fake fingernail, a water bottle cap, a marble, an "I Love You," note from her friend, Hello Kitty hair tie, hair clips, a dime, a piece of a sugar pine cone, stickers, a pack of glitter, plastic jewels, a ring, and a bolt.  Yes.  All of that in two child-sized pockets.  She's going to need a full TSA pat-down before school each morning.

As far as bad habits go, we're pretty lucky.  They aren't arsonists, or feces flingers, or booger eaters, or plagiarists.  We, of course, are keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't turn into full-blown vices.  And now, if you'll excuse me, I think there's some leftover Halloween candy with my name on it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Orange United

October is impossible.  It's a month cramstuffed with so many events that the good leaders of this nation have decided to celebrate its ending by letting everyone eat candy.  Here, they say,  nice job keeping your shit together.  Have a Payday.

Soccer was a twice a week commitment for Dylan that she seemed to be 52% committed to.  This year was a step up from the pup-tent sized goals and tiny field melee that is pee-wee soccer.  Now the goals are, you know, soccer goal sized and the field is proportionately bigger.  Dylan's enthusiasm for the game hasn't grown proportionately, but we're working on that.  Dylan played on the Etna team.  Or, to be more specific, The Etna Team.  Right, there was only one.  And guess who they played?  Yep.  The Ft. Jones Team.  1 league.  2 teams.  10 games.  October, yea!  I dubbed the Etna team Orange United.  They wore orange, and played (comparatively) like an English Premier League team.  The purple team, or the Ft. Jones 3 and Under All-Stars were good, but my God, they were small.  I think they recruited from the wrong playground.

If getting benched for fun-wrestling players from the other team and skipping to the ball means Dylan  enjoyed soccer, then I guess we'll pack up the mini-van and all become soccer moms, because it's in our future.  On the field, when she wasn't wrestling, she sometimes managed to focus long enough to be a pretty good player.  But stick her at goalie in an oversized red shirt and she'd become leader of the elephant walk and have all her defenders on their hands and feet doing the Jungle Book waltz.  Sometimes, when she was keeper, I'd look over and notice a completely empty net and see Dylan on the sideline getting a new beanie or gloves -- you know, because they matched better.  In fact, the only goal the FJ3UAS scored all season happened while Dylan was playing goalie.

Grady was a perfect little hooligan and tried to terrorize every match he attended.  If it weren't so cold he would have streaked.  Regina and I learned early that we needed to divide and conquer.  That meant either one of stayed home or, if we both went to the game, one of us kept an eye on our little Sidetracked Suzy while the other got playground time with the Hungry Monster.

Aside from organized sport, deer season monopolized quite a bit of our (my) time.  "Got to go get food for the family," I'd tell Regina whenever the kids were especially bratty.  This year Dylan wanted to join me.  I was excited about this time together so I planned a few easy hunts that we could do.  Our first morning out we hiked up on the hill and I decided to test Dylan's observation and keeping quiet skills.  We sat on a rock that overlooked a brush patch and, sure enough, several deer started moving around.  Dylan looked through my binoculars (backwards) and pointed out does and fawns.  The observation skills are good, but keeping quiet?  No.  She chatted the entire time.  Why those deer stayed in the same county as us, I don't understand.  We moved on to another spot and, again, saw more deer.  I kept feeding her candy bars to keep her mouth chewing and not talking, but the sugar might have backfired on me a little.  We were just about ready to pack it up and go home when a few more deer appeared.  I turned the binoculars around and saw that a couple of them were bucks.  Here we go, I thought.  Dylan's hunting gloves are little purple things with a yarn person on each finger.  When I looked at her, ready to plan our hunt, she was was flapping her hands like a hummingbird's wings.  The bucks looks warily on.  And when I tried to sneak over to a rock for a better view, I heard a loud crunching behind me.  Dylan decided to hop along behind me.  For obvious reasons, the bucks changed course and we didn't see them again.

While Dylan is my little hunter, Grady is my little logger.  When I got my chainsaw back from getting repaired, I decided to test it out by knocking down a few dead oaks in our horse pen.  Grady followed along and I was sure the loud saw would scare him.  Nope.  As soon as the first tree crashed down, he raised his arms like I'd scored a touchdown and yelled, "Yeah!"  So I kept on cutting until I fell a tree over the fence and thought I'd better slow down a little bit.  He just needs a little pair of Prison Blues jeans and and a hickory and he'll fit right in.

Next time I cut wood, I'll let Dylan help too.  The kids can be as loud as they want and it won't be their crazy hand gestures or voices that scares anything away.   No one will ask them to wear an oversized shirt and stand in front of a net while all of their friends play on the other side of the field.  Maybe I've finally found the perfect October sport for the whole family.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Put Your Corn Dogs in the Air Like You Just Don't Care

The first thing Dylan did when she set foot on the fairgrounds for opening day of the fair was inhale deeply and tell us that she detected upper notes of saddle leather and cinnamon with subtle undertones of acorn and boysenberry.  Actually, she just smiled and said, "It smells like the fair."  Corndogs were frying, livestock were crapping, beer was spilling, cotton candy was spinning and it all combined to smell like only a fair can.

Our first attempt at the carnival rides was a mixed bag.  Grady's just a few inches too short for the AA rides, and Dylan's too short for the big league stuff, so they're stuck in carnival purgatory.  But, they still love the carousel horses and the bumper cars and the small roller coasters.  Ho hum, I thought.  I need action!  I need thrills!  This year I talked Dylan into the most feared ride of all ... The Berry-Go-Round.  Basically, you sit in a giant strawberry and spin around.  The berry-coccoons hold one oversized adult and a handful of skeptical small people who are too polite to ask why a fuzzy old guy is on the ride with them.  There is a wheel directly in the center that the biggest, baddest kid (me) gets to spin.  And oh how I spun that strawberry.  The kids were laughing and I was spinning and spinning until, well, until I got sick.  "Faster," they yelled as I started scouting out spots where I could barf out the undersized door and not hit any families.  Decorum states that fair board members wearing their official fair IDs shall not hurl on paying fair-goers.  "Let's just rest a while," I told Dylan after that mess.

It didn't help that we decided to relax on the Merry Go Round.  Easy peasy, I thought.  I'll just stand here between Dylan and Grady and let my stomach settle.  But the diabolical little girl on the carousel horse directly in front of us had other plans.  As soon as the pipe-organ music fired up and we started going around, her finger started a frantic booger dig-and-scoop from nose to mouth.  It was a wreck I couldn't not watch, and wanted desperately to unsee forever.  The nausea came back with a vengeance and I almost became the first sober adult in history to throw up on the carousel horses.  I settled my stomach with a corn dog and decided relaxing on the Ferris Wheel would help.  Dylan and I went up and as we gazed at the iconic Yreka skyline, Dylan asked, "Daddy, in the 90s did they have Ferris Wheels?"  I laughed so hard that my nausea completely went away.  To celebrate, I ate another corn dog.

Must. Hold. On.

Grady has turned into a roller coaster maniac.  There are two at the fair that he's tall enough to ride.  The Go Gator goes around in a small circle and is made for small children.  Grady throws his hands in the air like he just don't care and leaves them up the entire ride.  I forget what the second roller coaster is called, but it should be named Small Claims Court for the whiplash is causes.  The kids love it, and why they are big enough to ride it bewilders me.  Regina or I have to ride it with them, and keep our arms behind their little heads so they don't break off and roll out into the midway.  Regina needs a masseuse when it's over, I need another corn dog, and the kids just want to ride it again.

Dylan's fair-goal is to spend money.  She brings her coins and bills and is lured into buying anything shiny.  My mantra seems to be, You already have that at home, or, That will break before we get home.  Instead, I convince her to play the Win a Goldfish carnival game.  I figured the fish she won last year was a fluke and it wouldn't happen again.  Last year she came home with three.  This year she won five.  I'm still not sure how.  As is wont to happen to fair-fish, five became four, became three ... you get the picture.  We're down to one, but he seems like he might make it.  I figure the fish, like a fair steer or hog, are good lessons for life.  Take care of them, treat them well, and if you're lucky, they'll live.  And if you're really lucky, you can sell them at an auction.  Dylan's only comment when one of the fish was found floating in the bowl was, "I wish it was just sleeping with its eyes open."
Happy Fair Monkeys

Next year, I'm staying off any ride that spins.  Dylan's already planning on winning some compadres for our survivor fish and wants to do Pee-Wee Showmanship with one of our chickens.  Grady's working on growing those last few inches so he can hit the medium-sized kid rides.  And we'll be there, like a yoga class winding down, inhaling deeply through our noses to catch every smell, and exhaling deeply through our mouths to settle our stomachs.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rodeo Road

Following the last May Rodeo, after watching her classmates finish 1st and 2nd in the Mutton Busting, Dylan came home and announced that she wanted to be a professional sheep rider.  I chalked up her swagger to the cotton candy lunch she'd had, but when I checked in with her a few days later, she was still up for the challenge.  This is the girl who'd been overly confident a few years before about her ability to ride a sheep -- until I sat her on a sheep's back, then she flew out of the chute faster than helicopters leaving Hanoi.  She spent the next two years telling everyone she didn't want to ride a sheep, she only wanted to ride a bus.  Needless to say, her newfound enthusiasm for rough-stock events was surprising.

Wrangler butts
In lieu of going out and finding an actual sheep on which to practice, we utilized what we had.  So, Mutton Busting practice consisted of balancing on wheellines as I rolled them.  We did this twice, then Dylan went to Tennessee.  In my mind, she spent her two weeks away working on her core-strength and agility, like Rocky Balboa training in Russia.  In reality, she ate cheese biscuits and played with her cousins.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of Mutton Busting.  I've stood in too many chutes and have been handed sobbing toddlers, as their parents told me to, "Just stick him on, he'll be fine."  These kids, they suck at riding sheep.  One, because they are so spent from fear that when the gate opens, they immediately let go, and two, they're so upset that their parents are morons, that they suffer an existential  crisis and ponder the meaning of Mutton Busting, then let go and get trampled by sharp sheep hooves.  I even have a little pep-talk I give them: "It's a little bit scary, and a lot of fun, but you don't have to ride if you don't want to."  Granted, it's no TED talk, but it seems to work most of the time.

Dylan needed no coaxing, no pep-talk.  She rolled into the arena in her glittery pink cowgirl hat, her new rodeo shirt, and her pink boots.  The hot tip from a former champion was to ride backwards, so she did.  My hot tip for her was to hang on tight, so she didn't.  Even with Grady cheering her on, and trying to climb on the sheep's back with her, her ride only lasted a couple of seconds.  The highlight was her summersault of a dismount.  She hit the dirt, popped up with arena muck all over her face and new shirt, collected her silver dollar, and said, "I want to do that again," and then, "How about that snowcone now."


The rest of the rodeo was really just a junk-food free for all.  Both kids gorged on snowcones until their faces and shirts looked like they'd spent the afternoon tie-dying at a Phish concert.  Grady got into someone's Doritos, so we stood on diaper watch until we learned that the "new" Doritos are gluten-free.  Crisis averted.

You know what they say, "It ain't over until the wild cow gets milked," so, as the rodeo wrapped up with the Wild Cow Milking, Dylan grabbed her pink hat, and Grady clung to a disintegrating paper snowcone cup as Regina and I herded them toward the truck.  There we were, back on the rodeo-road, making a living busting muttons.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Justin Morgan Needs a Motorcycle

Before we had kids, I used to fantasize about the bedtime stories I'd read to my gifted progeny.  I asked myself questions like: Is 3 too early to introduce them to Cormac McCarthy?  Does is matter if my kids mispronounce Fydor Dostoyevsky?  I imagined snuggling up on the couch in our jammies as my doe-eyed youngest handed me Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and said, "My mother is a fish." We'd all laugh and then I'd read to a rapt audience.

Me and Fat Cat will just chill, you keep reading
Obviously, this is why no one likes, or hires, English majors.  The reality of bedtime reading has been far less literary.  During the school year, Dylan has take home readers and we learn a lot about the daily struggles of Pat, Meg, and their damn dog, Bit.  When we ask Grady to choose his bedtime story, he usually grabs Pajama Party.  We sang "Pajama, jamma, jamma," so many times, and in so many ways, that we finally hid the book.

This year, Mom was cleaning out a bookshelf and I ended up with a pile of my old books.  I got so nostalgic about the stories that I immediately integrated a two part bedtime reading policy: I pick the books, and, You can't pick the books.  We started with The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  My brother Greg's name was written in his careful left-handed penmanship on the inside cover and I thought, This book is old.  Would it hold up?  Yep, the kids loved it.  Even after I'd catch Dylan drifting away and looking at the cats, when I'd quiz her about the chapter, she'd caught every detail. (Reason #2 no one like English majors: we quiz.)

We flew through that book and eagerly jumped into a childhood favorite of mine, Justin Morgan Had a Horse.  This book, frankly, is kind of a stinker.  I have to update the language to keep the kids interested, so lines like, "Hark to the man!" become, "What's up, Homie!" or "'Tis an insult to match our blooded horses against him," modernize to, "Who wants candy!"

We'll just make our own books.
Grady usually calls it quits early in each chapter and starts climbing around the couch.  Dylan tries, but ends up singing songs quietly to herself somewhere by the second page.  Once, I tried to quit the book.  No one was paying attention to the story and I thought we'd pick it back up later, much later.  Dylan threw a fit though -- I think she thought I was upset we were quitting the story -- so I trudged on.  Now, when I quiz her, I'm not even looking for a correct answer.  I'm not even sure I could give one.  I just want her to realize that we've been reading the same story for three months.  It's like a kid's version of Infinite Jest, everyone brags about reading it, but I have a hard time believing anyone really likes it.

Lately, we've definitely been on a summer reading schedule.  No, not summer-reading, like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, rather, let's eat ice cream instead of reading a bedtime story kind of reading.  I'll definitely amend my bedtime reading rules and give the kids a vote on the next book.  Until then, I'll put Blood Meridian in Grady's bookshelf, right in front of Pajama Party, and keep my fingers crossed that's the one he chooses next.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ted Nugent turns 6

As a kid, whenever I made a wish (candles, stars, chicken bones), my two go-to items were chocolate cake and a .22 pistol.  I know, not the highest of aspirations ... but I was a sugar-starved bumpkin with a penchant for shooting stuff, so those were obvious choices.  Dylan, similarly, has a go-to wish list: dolls and stuffed animals.  We're working on her making good decisions, and I think it needs to start with this list of hers.  First of all, she has a room loaded with stuffed animals and dolls.  Sometimes I swear that her teddy bears are getting freaky beneath her bed because they seem to multiply every time we do a cell room sweep.  Secondly, she doesn't play with 99% of them.  I'm trying to get her to see the practical side of wishing for sweets and weapons.

This year, for her 6th birthday, my advice finally took hold.  She crossed off "stuffed animal" from her list and added what all 6-year old princesses want: a compound bow.  I was ecstatic, but Regina took out her crystal ball, looked one week into the future, saw Grady wearing an eye-patch, and quickly talked me out of a trip to The Sportsman's Warehouse.

Despite the bow-less birthday, Dylan still had a memorable day.  Hilary at the bakery gave her 6 donut holes -- which she shoved into her mouth before I could suggest that she save a couple for snack.  After school, Regina surprised her with a trip to Christy's to get her ears pierced.  For dinner, it was an all-request meal: cake and pizza ("The student has become the master," I thought).  And, before the pizza came out of the oven, Dylan hurled all over the kitchen floor.  I came home from irrigating to a sick girl standing over the toilet, and Regina holding her nose and a mop.  I figured birthday girl barf would be glittery and rainbow colored.  It's not.  It's super-gross.

Luckily, Dylan rebounded from her flu, and two days later she had 10 little princesses over for a cookie decorating, trampoline bouncing, Barbie-cake and pizza eating, and general willy-nilly behavior party.  It was exhausting.

Dylan has shoved most of her new gifts beneath her covers and I'm fairly certain she examines each one like it's a clue from CSI: Eastside when she's supposed to be sleeping.  Tonight, while Regina was at book club and Grady was snuggled up in bed, I ate dinner on the couch while Dylan told me about her day.  We turned on the television and everybody's favorite bow hunting show, Chasing Tail, was on.  "What's that thing he's shooting," Dylan asked about one of the character's very expensive bows.  "A compound bow," I said before I could stop myself.  And I could see the flicker of recognition behind her eyes ... Oh yeah, I was supposed to be getting a bow for my birthday.  You thought you could get that one past me with Hello Kitty and Lalaloopsy.  Well played, Dad.  Well played.  So, I guess we'll be taking a trip to The Sportsman's Warehouse soon.  Maybe my wish will come true while we're there and I'll get some cake.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Easter Recipe

Want the perfect recipe for an Easter disaster?  It's easy, just combine one part Vomit with two parts Rain, stir gently, then sift in a Choking Child, an Hour-Long Cough Attack, and a pinch of High Fever.  Bake at 350 for twenty minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle on the Innocence of Childhood Lost and ta-da! Happy Easter!

Two weeks ago, in a fit of enthusiasm, we volunteered to have the family Easter party at our house.  Regina's good at this kind of thing, e.g. she plans in advance.  I'm perpetually surprised when major holidays (except St. Patricks Day) suddenly pop up.  Regina kept us on track: eggs were decorated or filled, pork and lamb roasts were ... uh, roasted, lemon bars were baked, and Dylan taped random school art on our walls.  Nothing says Easter like Dragons! Abe Lincoln! Ferris Wheel! and okay, an Easter Bunny or two.

By Sunday we were locked and loaded (this isn't a euphemism for getting drunk in the garage, alone) for the party.  And then it started raining.  And then I fed Grady a cashew.  He choked, he barfed, and he coughed for an hour.  Things were regressing quickly so I did what good dads do: I skeedaddled.  No, I didn't get locked and loaded in the garage, to my mother's joy, I took Dylan to Easter service.  By the time we got home, Grady was passed out from cough-exhaustion, the food was out, and the party was ready.

Princess Banana Peel helps
And that slow, downward spiral of a day turned itself around quickly.  Family and friends arrived with food and drink, we stuffed ourselves silly, and we watched four little critters find, then drop, eggs, which were then re-found and re-dropped in an infinite loop.  We finally called a timeout, put the remaining eggs in their baskets, and got ready for the Main Event: Big Kid Egg Hunting.
Two may enter, one may leave

To really spice things up, someone brought cash-filled eggs.  We hid cash and candy eggs in the front lot of our house, then turned the teenagers loose.  Think Bloodsport meets The Hunger Games and you'll get an idea of what we were privy to.  I saw my niece, who is barely recovered from a broken back, yes, a broken back, body slam her brother and dive for a plastic egg hidden in a squirrel hole.  My nieces and nephew sprinted, stiff-armed, and judo-rolled their way around the hunting grounds, then would stop and scour through piles of leaves like they'd lost a contact, all the while muttering, "Eggs ... the eggs."  It was great watching.

When the party ended, Grady, who had rebounded nicely after his fistfight with the cashew, crashed out in his bed in his diaper and collared shirt.  He looked like a fraternity pledge on initiation night.  We hid Dylan's basket outside and put her to bed where, hopped up on Peeps, she must have pondered the meaning of the day ... no, not the resurrection of Jesus, but the existence of the Easter Bunny.  The next day she woke up and asked Regina if parents are really the Easter Bunny.  "You really should ask your father that," she deftly maneuvered.

Despite the coughs and rain and existential Easter questions, and everything else that could have dragged a party down, the day was a success.  We celebrated with family and friends, we had health (at least most of the time), we had alcohol (locked and loaded, baby!), and we had action sports.  We couldn't have asked for more, it would just ruin the recipe.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Soy Un Perdedor

I've lost a few things lately.  Some small items -- sunglasses, wallet, dog bowl -- went missing for no more than a few hours, but I'm a slovenly Virgo, so in my messes, there is order; I generally don't misplace much. (Except for that dog watering bowl.  Seriously, have you seen it?)  I've also lost a few big things.  My favorite snowboard went sledding out the back of my truck somewhere between the ski park and home, and my cool, collected self went walkabout during a rugby match.

Before Kids (BK), Regina and I used to hit the ski park every weekend.  We'd hold mittened hands on the chair lift and laugh at the dudes who skied in jeans.  But babies have a way of putting a halt to sport, and while I've snuck out of the house to go boarding a couple times a year since Dylan was born, our dream of becoming the first X-Games boarder-cross couple has gone down the half-pipe.

But now that Dylan's five, we've brushed the cobwebs off our boards and taken her to the mountain for a few lessons.  Our theory is simple: get in a few lessons, pump her full of hot chocolate, and let her sugar-riddled brain overcome any fears of learning the falling-leaf.  As you've probably guessed, it was on one of these trips that I didn't latch my tailgate properly and lost Mr. Mountain Slayer, my snowboard.  But that wasn't the only thing I lost lately.

I realize now that the sight of a 41-year old hooker screaming obscenities may be funny on a Reno street corner, but it's not cool on a rugby pitch.  The only upside that I can find about my fit was the kids were out of earshot and that Regina had packed a large cooler of beer, and everyone knows that beer makes everything less embarrassing.

Dylan has been following in her father's losing footsteps.  Her jacket, lunch pail, homework, backpack are all fair game when it comes to the What-Gets-Left at school game.  Fortunately, her Hello Kitty gear is easy to spot, and usually gets returned.  On our last cattle drive, Dylan lost her reins.  I wasn't worried when they slipped out of her hands and somehow ended up around her horse's ears.  Barney is so old that there are drawings of him in caves in France.  But Barney was literally feeling his oats and took off at a gallop down the road.  I was too far back to catch him, but Regina finally got her horse in gear and headed off the runaway about a hundred yards down the road.  Dylan did awesome.  She was scared, but clung to the horn and stayed straight in the saddle.

I hope that the things we lose don't create our memories.  I don't want Dylan to only remember her dash down the road when she thinks of horses, just like I don't want to have tailgate paranoia every time I get in my truck or flashes of embarrassment every time I play rugby.  I think the kids will remember the great stuff, like  pizza and Snickers in a ski lodge and a sunny day spent rolling around on the grass while their dad ran around with a bunch of guys in really short shorts.  I will remember, next time, to shut my tailgate.  And deep breaths, always take deep breaths.